Has Nintendo Lost Its Creative Edge?

Nintendo!  Oh man, who doesn’t love playing some Nintendo?  For years now, we’ve come to love the classic characters and games that have been consistently churned out by the Big N.  Mario Brothers, Star Fox, Legend of Zelda, Pikmin, Animal Crossing, Pokémon, and many more have entertained us for decades now, reliably coming out with fun games for each new system.  The worlds that Nintendo has created are familiar, family-friendly, and fun.  So what’s the problem with that?  Or, to put it another way: is that all Nintendo has to offer?

It...can't be, can it?

It…can’t be, can it?

Don’t get me wrong, Nintendo is a great company that has produced many incredibly entertaining games, but it seems to me that they’ve fallen into a bit of a slump, creativity-wise.  I mean, who doesn’t love a new Mariokart or Legend of Zelda, but is that really all they’ve got to offer these days?  Newer versions of what works?  Now, I’m a big proponent of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but Nintendo is a company that used to produce new and exciting intellectual properties, but they don’t seem to be interested in doing that anymore.  If Nintendo makes a game, then you can expect the usual crew in that game.

Surprise!!!!!!!

Surprise!!!!!!!

I really don’t understand why they’re hesitant about creating new characters.  They’ve had incredible success in the past with characters they’ve developed, or had a heavy hand in developing.  (I realize that not every character owned by Nintendo originated with Nintendo, but for the sake of my own sanity I’m just going to lump them all together.)  I think this might be part of the problem that Nintendo’s been having lately.  They’re not being creative enough to get people really excited about their games.  Instead, they keep pumping out a new Mario game, a new Pikmin, a new Pokémon, and not truly getting creative.  Or giving us Amiibos, which a lot of gamers might be into, but I know that I’m not, really.  Or, the few times that they come out with a different style of game, they shove their familiar characters into it!  Toad in a puzzle game!  Mario in a puzzle game!  Link in a Dynasty Warriors!

Give us something new, Nintendo!  I want to buy a Wii U, I really do, but if it’s just the same thing over and over again, why would I bother to do that?  If it’s Legend of Zelda, why wouldn’t I just play one of the six other versions I have?  If it’s Super Mario, why wouldn’t I just pop in Galaxy or 64?  Are the new versions truly very different than what I’ve already got?  Give me something different, something to get excited about!  “Hey, a Mario RPG!  It’s Mario!  And Bowser!  And I guess they’re friends at the moment, or something.  Is this even canon?  Does Mario have canon?”

Do they murder each other before or after they go go-karting together?

Now, one could make the argument that simply creating new characters would be gimmicky.  One could say that since they make games for almost every type of game, making a game with the same gameplay but different characters would possibly be detrimental to their current properties and be practically dishonest to their fanbase.  I do not necessarily argue this train of thought.  In fact, that line of thinking could be taken even further by suggesting that they were being the only true innovators with motion controls.  I do not argue this, either.  It was very brave of them to do something different with regards to controlling their games, and I commend the effort.

The only problem is that the motion controls are, in my opinion, a failure.  They’ve never worked as well as they should, and waving your arms wildly about in front of the television will never get fun.  But again, I applaud the attempt.

See?  Even Link can't get into it.

See? Even Link can’t get into it.

Then there’s the problem of possibly hurting their pedigree by releasing different games in the same genre.  It is something that they would run the risk of, but as they have a habit of making very good games, I think that the risk to their reputation would be minimal.

Also, by developing new properties, they have the chance to do things that they wouldn’t dream of doing with their current properties.  For example, skipping over one iteration of the Legend of Zelda for a different adventure would not necessarily be the worst thing in the world.  I mean, they would never in a million years have Zelda become power-hungry and take the Triforce pieces from Link and Ganon, but with a different franchise, they could go in this type of direction.  Or perhaps, instead of shoving their familiar characters into new types of games, they could maybe spend a few minutes thinking up a new, fun character to put in the game.  Instead of Kirby’s epic yarn, there could have been a whole new world with new characters and a fun art style and new gameplay to go with it.  But instead it’s Kirby made of yarn.  Which is fine, but not nearly as exciting or full of possibility as a new franchise would give us.

Additionally, I think that it alienates a good portion of the gaming population by making all their IPs seem very childish.  If every character is a big-eyed ball of cute, then many will gravitate towards more adult-seeming fare.  I know that many Nintendo fanboys will say “good,” but I actually want Nintendo to be really popular again.  And I’m not suggesting that new characters and IPs need to be gritty or violent, nor do they even have to be more “adult” per se, it just opens up those avenues by not focusing solely on decades-old characters and worlds.

Pictured: Not New.

Pictured: Not New.

I want to reiterate that I enjoy Nintendo and the worlds and games they have created.  I simply think that while they are looking to the future with their hardware, their characters and franchises are all from the past.  Maybe shake it up a little, Nintendo.  Give us something new and exciting!  Mario is great and all, but maybe make up a new character and game franchise.  Like…I dunno, a pirate?  Or a like, a misunderstood space cactus or something?  Give me a paycheck, this shit ain’t free!

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17 thoughts on “Has Nintendo Lost Its Creative Edge?

  1. They have some pretty dark and mature IPs, they just aren’t pushing them very hard right now. Metroid has always been oppressive and creepy, and Fire Emblem has lots of death. Even Star Fox is kind of mature from a storyteling standpoint.

    Speaking of Star Fox, that’s another good example of them grafting an IP onto a great original idea. Oh, Dinosaur Planet . . . I shed a tear for what might have been.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True, they do, but Metroid’s been around forever, Fire Emblem’s been around forever, and shoving Star Fox into a different game type isn’t coming up with new ideas. I want them to add to their existing list of great IPs, not shove existing characters into new genres. I’m also not advocating abandoning those characters, just not being afraid to introduce new ones.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m agreeing with you about Dinosaur Planet! It could have been great, but they shoehorned Fox McCloud in there and took away his blaster for no reason.

        I want new IPs, but I also want to see them return to some of their darker IPs that haven’t had much love recently.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, but even if they had done original characters, the game play in SF Adventures is downright atrocious. I also wouldn’t mind them visiting Metroid or Fire Emblem more, myself, I just want new characters and IPs from them, too, is all. They seem stuck on all the ones they have.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s nothing left for Nintendo to be creative about. They have their kart, 2D platformer Mario franchise. Their top down or open world Zelda. Their RTS Pikmin, their FPS, space shooter Metroid. Trading RPG for Pokemon. Their fighter, Super Smash Bros. What else is their really to be creative about? I don’t see new genres cropping up.

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    • This is a good point, but you have to wonder what it would be like if they made a 3D action adventure game that wasn’t set in Hyrule, but had similar gameplay. They could come up with a wild new IP but stick with tried and true mechanics. I’d play it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • But then those take 5 years to develop. They could make an Earthbound 3D open world exploration game set in modern day. As a shareholder in Nintendo, I’d hate to see them take the risk and pay people in the unknown. They could make a lesser version of such a grand game on 3DS since they’ve got 40 million units. Portable is always where to put risk.

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  3. Kirbys Epic Yarn was going to be non kirby but then Nintendo put Kirby into it. I think the nature and appeal of Kirby made the game great, he is a cute as hell character and the music track remixes later in the game were sublime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Which, again, is fine. Kirby’s a great character who deserves fun games. But they could have had a new character, someone else different and exciting, someone that fans could latch onto who aren’t necessarily Kirby fans. Their staunch refusal to do that makes me wonder why they’re so reluctant to create new characters.

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      • I think Kirby could have had an “Epic Yarn” kind of game years ago, an appreciation of the cute character Kirby is rather than the devouring and conquering eldritch abominations.

        That said I don’t think the game had much chance of being noticed without Kirby being the face of it. Prince Fluff is so uninteresting and the changing form mechanic isn’t as novel with him. I sometimes wonder if they aren’t comfortable making a new character franchise that they would stick with. I think to the Fire Emblem series and while they generally have an interesting cast, goodness me to many blue haired people with swords.

        I think they need to see a really creative opportunity to get the juices flowing. As it stands, slapping mario into other genres is working, it is just boring seeing mario everywhere. They clearly know how other genres can work they are just reluctant their first outing not having the young audience appeal of the plumber or what have you.

        With Splatoon coming out I feel like this might be the tipping point though, if it goes well we might just see them broadening their horizons even more with new IPs and fresh characters. They just gotta be careful they don’t have so many IPs some get lost in the dust.

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        • I’m honestly surprised that Splatoon isn’t a Mario title. But it is encouraging that they’re trying something new.
          Them being reluctant to try new things without the appeal of the plumber is exactly what I’m talking about, though. They need the edge back. Taking risks, bringing new things to the table!

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          • Man that is like the go to way to make sure a top executive at any company just ignore you, seriously. Risk taking? It ain’t just the company employees it is the shareholders too, the shareholders are already pissy about the Wii U performance and Iwata as it is.

            Maybe in a more comfortable gaming landscape they’ll bring out some more new IPs. It seems that even with all that bank they’d lose more than a good portion of their shareholders if they went and did anything else that flopped in the current landscape. Pikmin was at a at least more optimistic time for Nintendo, with the more open atmosphere to younger developers happening now we might see that time soon.

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            • This is the whole point. For some reason, be it fear of bad sales, fear of alienating customers, fear of pissy shareholders, or simple inability, Nintendo has been lacking creatively.

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              • Oh I’ve never disagreed with that to an extent, I just think it is important to highlight what could be holding them and much of the game industry really back.

                Liked by 1 person

                  • Of all companies yes they seem to be the most likely, however the whole Wii U situation has kinda thrown them off, a bad launch and a lack of experience making HD games put them very far back.

                    They got some smart cookies in that company, they probably just need an opportune time. God forbid Nintendo brings new IPs out against long standing monster franchises.

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